19 August 2012

Amazon Kindle: Eco-friend or Foe?

Amazon Kindle Landscape
Now I didn’t buy a Kindle as a way to reduce my carbon-footprint, unfortunately my wrists are weak and after an emergency hospital stay they were too bruised to lift a book. So the light-weight Kindle was really a purchase of desperation, to get me through six house-bound weeks. But as I’ve been flying through books this summer, I started to wonder just how many books did I needed to read before the Kindle became an eco-friendly option?

Unfortunately Amazon has chosen not to release the details of the Kindle’s carbon-footprint. However Apple has released the details of the iPad 3 (130kg CO2), which I would guess has a higher footprint than the Kindle (colour screen vs e-ink technology). If we divide this by the carbon-footprint of a typical paperback (8.85lbs, approx 4kg) it works out at something like 32.5 books are equal to an iPad. (I suspect this still ignores some of the material costs: renewable paper vs. electronics and plastics.) There have been claims that the Kindle's footprint is equivalent to about 20 books however some analyses put that figure at closer to 40.

When I finish this next novel we’ll have read 33 books on the Kindle. Mr Goldfish has read 5 while I’ve read 28 (actually I’ve read more, but some were duplicates of books I already owned). So we're well on our way to being carbon-free with the books we buy in future, if we're not there already.

Like most things, the right answer is going to be different for everyone. If you’re an avid reader the Kindle may work out as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional paperbacks, but if you only get chance to read on your summer holiday, books will still be your best choice. Of course the best answer of all is probably to visit your local library.

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